Nivedita Ganguly

February 21, 1946February 13, 2021

Nivedita (Nita) Ganguly passed away on February 13, 2021 from pneumonia complications following a long, brave fight to recover from a massive stroke. Her immediate family will gather for a private cremation ceremony on Wednesday, February 17.

Nita was born to Sushil and Aloka Mitra on February 21, 1946 in Kolkata, India. Education, both her own and of others, was the primary focus of her life. She completed her B.S. degree in Zoology & Comparative Anatomy in 1965, and her M.S. in Zoology & Comparative Anatomy in 1967 at Presidency College, Kolkata. She finished her Ph. D in Genetics in 1973 at the University of Calcutta, Kolkata, India. She received a prestigious fellowship from the U.S government in 1973 to work at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Nita met Ranjan Ganguly in 1969 and they shared a love for the ages. They were married on December 12, 1976 and moved to Lincoln, Nebraska where their son Tuhin was born in 1979. They spent 6 years in Irvine, California where Nita completed her post doctorate work at the University of California. In 1986, they made Knoxville their home for the next 33 years, where they raised their family and became the surrogate parents for newly arrived Indians, opening their home to anyone in need of community. They led local Hindu festivals and Bengali Cultural programs and hosted epic parties, where you could always count on Nita to dance the night away. She loved music, food, art, good conversation, and travel. Nita & Ranjan traveled the world together, visiting a multitude of countries over 5 continents.

In 1992, Nita completed her second master’s degree in Science Secondary Teaching and began her devotion to educating others. Nita was an exemplary teacher. She began her teaching career as a science teacher at Bearden Middle School in Knoxville, TN and then spent 15 years at Oak Ridge High School as an AP Environmental Science and Biology Teacher and Department Chairperson. Nita was awarded a myriad of accolades as a high school teacher, including receiving the Presidential Council of Environmental Education Award and the Siemens Award for the Teaching of Science. In 2007 she testified before Congress on the Nanotechnology in the Schools Act.

Nita was an integral member of the College Board for 18 years, and helped develop the AP Environmental Science lab manuals, performance level descriptors, and teacher’s guide, in addition to running workshops to assist other educators around the world with setting up and running AP Environmental Science programs.

Nita joined UT-Knoxville in 2010 to launch the VolsTeach Program and her 8-year tenure vastly pushed forward the agenda of increasing the number of STEM educators in the US. She also became the State Director for the Tennessee Science Olympiad Competition and the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. She never tired of working with young people and watching them become poised, confident educators.

In 2018, Nita and Ranjan retired and relocated to Alexandria, VA and found immeasurable joy spending time with their granddaughters. Even in retirement, Nita continued her passion for educating by running the Tennessee Science Olympiad, leading workshops as a College Board consultant, and working as a faculty consultant for STEM Programs at UT- Knoxville. Her excellence in teaching has impacted thousands of students and teachers, and her legacy leaves an abundance of STEM educators better suited to serve our nation’s children.

Nivedita was preceded in death by her father Sushil Mitra and mother Aloka Mitra. She is survived by her husband Ranjan Ganguly, son Tuhin (Kara) Ganguly, two granddaughters, Aina & Ayda Ganguly, brother Shankar Mitra, and countless extended family and friends.

Nita had a remarkable love for life and she carried a piece of every person she met in her heart. She was an accomplished woman and she would say her greatest accomplishment was knowing and loving each person she met, but especially in caring for her son and granddaughters. She was deeply devoted to the betterment of humanity and her loss will be felt over multiple generations around the world.

A Celebration of Life will be planned in Knoxville this summer, pending COVID restrictions. Please email to receive details as they become available. You can also share your memories and stories with her family at:

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the American Stroke Foundation at or the Oak Ridge Public School Education Foundation at


  • Funeral Service

    Wednesday, February 17, 2021


Nivedita Ganguly

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June 25, 2021

I just learned of Nita's passing last week and I am crushed. Nita worked in my lab at UCI and Ranjan worked next door in Jerry Manning's lab. We became close friends and I felt like Tuhin was
my nephew. We all shared an incredible trip to the International Congress of Genetics in Calcutta many years ago, including a visit to the fantastic mountains at sunrise.
Nita was a person who can only be described in the most lovely, thoughtful terms. I will miss her, despite the fact that we haven't been in touch for years.

Ranjan and Tuhin - please contact (

Your dearest friend -

Sandya Narayanswami

June 20, 2021

I am very sad indeed to learn that my friend Nivedita "Nita" Ganguly recently passed away. I have known Nita and Ranjan for nearly 40 years, having met them when I was a postdoc at UC Irvine. Nita and Ranjan were both postdocs in my department. Ranjan moved on to a faculty position at UT Knoxville and Nita had an amazing career in teaching. UCI was never the same after they left.

As that rare thing-a single Indian woman scientist in the 1980s- I valued Nita's friendship and understanding. She was one of the few women I knew who really understood the obstacles I had had to overcome to get to where I was. She and Ranjan were kind, humorous, warm, generous, welcoming friends. I got my first taste of Bengali cuisine at their house at one of the many wonderful parties that they threw! Many of the veggie recipes I still use today, I learned from Ranjan, who did the cooking at their house..... His "Cabbage Surprise" remains a mystery to this day.....

My dear Father, who passed away in 1997, also knew and admired Nita very much. Both my parents met Ranjan and Nita several times. Many good stories there. She was irreplaceable. My sincere condolences to Ranjan and to her entire family.

Sarah Stooksbury

February 19, 2021

I met Dr. G in the Volsteach program at UT Knoxville and she was just a wonderful person to work with and to learn from. She was so incredibly smart and yet so kind and encouraging. I’m so glad I got to know her.

You are a treasure we’ll all carry in our hearts, Dr. G. <3

Susan Hollier

February 19, 2021

Nita was a lovely lady. The world has lost an exemplary educator and friend. She loved her family, for sure.

Emily Backus

February 18, 2021

I was one of the many ORHS students touched by Dr. Ganguly’s gift for teaching. Her kind heart and belief in every student’s potential were a remarkable example for us all.

Yolanda Kirkpatrick

February 15, 2021

Nita elevated the confidence and created high expectations for everyone (students, faculty, and staff). We have missed her each day since her retirement, and the stories she told about teaching, family, and traveling will forever remain a joy for us.

Yolanda Kirkpatrick

February 15, 2021

Nita elevated the confidence and created high expectations for everyone (students, faculty, and staff). We have missed her each day since her retirement, and the stories she told about teaching, family, and traveling will forever remain a joy for us.

Phyllis Jones

February 15, 2021

I have known Nita 2 weeks at a time for over 15 years. What a great educator and ambassador to the APES community. She single handed increased the readers and teachers involved from the beginning. I am sure she and Betsy Ertel made the APES course and community a success. She will be missed and remembered fondly at every reading and workshop. I have so many happy memories with her at these readings. As she word says “no worries darling, it will all work out. “ We love you and miss you Nita. Love and prayers to the family. She loved you so much.

Terri Hopkins

February 15, 2021

Ranjan-My heartfelt condolences for your loss. I have many fond memories of working with Nita to make VolsTeach work-from our cramped shared space in Dabney Hall, to Aconda Court, before finding our home in Greve. She worked tirelessly for our students which contributed to the success of our program. Beyond that, she was a caring friend and supportive and helpful to all who crossed her path.

Nancy Lessig

February 15, 2021

Dear Ranjan, Tajin, Kara, Aina and Ayda,
My deepest sympathy on the passing of Nita. Please know that you all are in my thoughts and prayers. She was a beacon of light to the VolsTeach program and all the students who learned in her classroom. I am blessed to have worked for her in Greve Hall and volunteer for her with the Science Olympiad. I will cherish our lunch time breaks to Jai Dees and office gab sessions. Nita, simply stated, was a legend.